My hands are neither graceful nor fine boned. And, unlike so many others, I cannot seem to find the time or inclination to tend to my cuticles or shape my nails into careful squares, or ovals, or whatever-it-is-that-is-fashionable-right-now…let along actually paint them. I am glad merely to keep them washed and reasonably free of dirt from the garden.
There are days, though, when I am painfully aware of my ragged cuticles. Days when I am self-conscious of the short haircut (self-cut in exasperation at 11:00 p.m., likely with whining kids outside the door…which also explains the strangle tuft that sticks up in the back, both too long and too short to behave).
I am neither blonde nor tan. I am not young. I am not well-endowed. I. Am. Not.
On the I Am Not Days, every comparison is a failure. I am not lovely, or engaging, or wealthy, or privileged. I am not brilliant. I am not the person I thought I would be when I was younger. I’m just not.
I cannot compare myself to others and find much of anything that adds up to the person I want to be, because who I am meant to be has absolutely nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.
My nails are kept purposefully short, because short nails are more practical. And gardeners are nothing if not practical. I would rather dig in the dirt than fret over a manicure because, in my life, having herbs enough to get us through another year trumps fancy fingers. A yard full of flowers and food is far more enticing than those nail wrap things that everyone but me seems to have.
My hair is kept short, because I resent spending time curling, or straightening, or blow drying…and my not-quite-curly-but-certainly-wavy-but-not-in-that-easy-to-manage-way hair would require significant maintenance if kept at a longer length. I would rather spend my morning writing than fighting the unending war on misbehaving waves.
I am forty three years old. And I own each of those years. I earned them all. Each wrinkle and crease is well-deserved. I spend no time trying to conceal them; I do well to remember to wash my face put on some sort of lotion at night. I’d rather climb in bed with my husband than waste time on creams and potions to preserve some illusion of youth. After all, he is perfectly aware exactly how old I am. It’s not like I am fooling him.
(If you are concerned about Outlander spoilers, stop reading now.)
As I re-re-re-read the Outlander books, I find that I identify so much more with Older Claire. Much more no-nonsense than her younger counterpart, Older Claire has made peace with her graying hair, the broken vein behind her ankle, and the faded stretch marks on her stomach*—in part, of course, because of Jamie’s acceptance and appreciation of these parts of her. Just as he loved her legs—no, not smooth and waxed (exotic though it must have seemed in that place and time), but the unaltered, and downy haired leg that God gave her—Jamie even loved the wee hair that sprouted from her areola.** He loved all of her.
Certainly it is easier to find peace with yourself when you surround yourself with those that love and accept you are you are. Perhaps that is part of the wisdom that comes with age: knowing who to keep close and who to let go. Sometimes it’s hard to know on which side of the divide people fall. Maybe the easiest way to find out is to see how you are reflected in their heart. When I am with those closest to me, I feel funnier, more capable, and more comfortable. When I am with them, I don’t find myself trying to live up to others’ expectations. With them, there are no comparisons.
With them, I am simply Myself.
* I adore the part where Claire is concerned about her stretch marks and Jamie reveals his own scarred thigh and asks her if the sight of it repulses her. When she says it does not, and he says something like “if your body bears the scars of your own battles” why would it bother him, it is all I can do not to swoon then and there.
** (I recently reread this bit and it still made me smile. It also reminded me of something which Amanda Palmer wrote wherein she describes such stray hairs as “nip-lashes.” Henceforth all references to stray nipple hairs shall be referred to as such. Thank you, Amanda Palmer for providing me with a word I didn’t even know I needed!)